If you click a picture it will be enlarged. The pictures can then be viewed in succession as a slideshow. If you see a link, for example: Shigatse Travels click on the link and it will be opened. When referring to a map, the map can be accessed by clicking on the link : (route)map of Tibet . The clips (images with an arrow) that are included are HD recordings. The clips can be viewed in a separate window that automatically opens when you click on the image with the arrow.
English is not our native language, so we apologize in advance for translation- spelling- and grammar errors.
The mountain are beautiful but unfortunately it's a little bit cloudy.
Passang slept home last night. The house of his parents is in a village nearby. We will collect him there. It gives us the opportunity to visit his parents too. We drive about 6 km on a cobbled path to the village. We look forward to this encounter. Unique of course to get the opportunity pay a visit out off the tourist paths to a family in a small mountain village where life is lived and organized in the traditional way.
JYou wonder how people manage to survive in the barren, rugged, treeless landscape of the Tibetan plateau.
It is a very nice village. Passang awaits us with his little nephew on his shoulders.
We follow him to his house. Stairs up to the living room. A cozy room with messy kitchen in the middle a large stove, benches on the sides, many paintings and a beautiful painted wardrobe with 1000 and 1 boxes.
We are greeted with butter tea. Once you finished your drink the cup is refilled. We meet his parents, brother, sister in law and an aunt.
The mother of Passang settles during our visit in a corner of the room near a large tin prayer mill. There is a rope adjusted to the mill.
With in one hand a hand prayer wheel she pulls with her other hand on the string that large prayer wheel and she mumbles prayers. High production of prayer!
We see a house temple with many Buddhas and a very special altar. The toilet outside consists of two holes in the ground but it is neat and clean. It just seems so cold out there in the winter ... Passangs parents are already 81.
The cows are under the house. They are milked. The calves .... also looking for tasty fresh milk, are driven away.
The mother of Passang is going to make cheese. Passang shows us a room where the family lives most of the time during the winter. There is a spinning wheel and a loom. Rugs are woven here and we see shelf for drying cheese. We are surprised. When we enter the room it turns out that the father is sleeping in the room. He is old and sick, but now he sits upright in his bed. A cat has found a good place to sleep at the foot end of the bed.
A poor farmers family in Tibet produce almost all the necessities themselves . Mattresses, blankets, etc. it is a nice mess in the room. We take some pictures.
As the father Passang comes out of bed later, we make a family portrait. Father and mother look good in their traditional attire with the mountains in the background. After our visit we return to the car and leave the village. The visit is one of the highlight of our journey till now. Now we really drive towards the Everest !! What a great vistas, what a void too. Between the high mountains the wide valley with little more than stones and some mosses. Everywhere high snowy behemoths. And to think that we are already at high altitude. This really is the roof of the world.
Grazing herds of sheep, goats and yaks. The yaks provide the nomads in almost all their needs: butter, milk and meat as food, wool for clothing and tents, excrement as fuel and building material. It's a hard life here.
Here and there a tent in the always waving wind. Now the sun is shining but we can imagine how it will be here far from civilization in solitude with rain and storm or bitter cold. Brrr.
Our new driver drives fine. Clouds of dust chase the car. We drive on a very bumpy road! We are at high altitude but you don't really realize it because we drive on a plateau. Finally we arrive in Rongbuk (4950m!). Our hotel Rongbuk Everest Hotel, is the highest hotel in the world. The hotel is located 50m north of Rongbuk Monastery. It is pretty empty and basic. Shared toilet one floor down. No running water but a bucket filled with water in the room. And ..... and that is by far the most important .... overlooking the Mount Everest!
We use a simple lunch at the restaurant. After lunch we take the car to a tent camp 5 km away towards Everest. It is very busy at the camp.
There are several bars where you can eat and sleep. You can buy souvenirs and there is even a post office tent. More vendors than buyers. We walk around and drink coffee. Stormy wind but in the tent it is extremely comfortable. From this point you can use a shuttle bus service to ride you slightly further away to the base camp of Mount Everest . It is useless to go today. It is cloudy and the Everest lies almost entirely in the clouds. We will try tomorrow. Instead we walk take our time now to walk around, enjoy the fascinating landscape and then return to the hotel.
In the evening we have diner in the restaurant. The restaurant is a dimly lit room with a large fireplace in the middle that should warm the entire room. That's not quite succeed. It is cold.
From behind the glass, but also on the porch, we now have a fantastic view of the ever-changing colossal north face of Everest and Lhotse. Impressive! Iconic!
The sunset is breathtaking but, just when the whole mountain appears to be visible always a cloud pops up to partly cover the mountain again.
And so, the Mount Everest keeps his own secrets. For us also, but what is this extraordinary.
We get up early. The plan is to go to the base camp if the weather is clear. We seem to have luck. When we wake up and look out the window of our room it's cloudless and the Mount Everest is 100% visible! Wow that's a nice way to wake up. Unfortunately, our happiness is short-lived. The Everest colors gold in the early morning but is soon hidden again behind a cloud. Why do those clouds come so quickly and disappear so slowly. Well nature in Tibet still make its own laws.
We drive back to Tigri after breakfast because Everest is shrouded in mystery. We still /again have a beautiful ride ahead!
Occasionally we make stops.
We walk through the village, but there is not much to do. We have lunch in a restaurant with many flies. This village is really a staging point for adventurers who travel to the park and the Everest. Much last shopping.
In the afternoon Pierre, Dita and Ingrid read a book in the sun. Hat on, because it's here 4300 meters.
Jan-Arend makes a long walk in the valley. Over fields, between flocks of sheep, along rivers and among thousands of flags hanging everywhere. It is for him a way to say goodbye to this beautiful area. Tomorrow we will leave Tibet again.
At the end of the day we drink a glass of wine together and in the evening we take Passang out to dinner. This is the last evening with him in Tibet. The food is nice. We are curious about the next day, the crossing to Nepal. We wonder if we have to walk; the road is still not sufficiently mended after the landslide of about 6 weeks ago.
An early day today. We get up at 6:30. 7 pm departure. It's still dark. There is almost no one on the road. Gradually the light appears. Soft floodlighting. Here and there snowy peaks. The higher we get, the more overcast. We ride through low clouds as we cross the La Lung La (5124 m) mountain pas and later the Nyalam Tsong-la (5120 m) pas. We are near Mount Kalesh. Mount Kalesh is a popular place of pilgrimage for Hindus but there's no time for a visit.
From Nielamuzhen (3750 m) a staging point where many pilgrims acclimatize before traveling to Mount Kalesh the road goes steeply down towards Nepal. The vegetation abruptly turns into an opulent shape. Everywhere waterfalls.
It gets increasingly busy on the road as we get closer to the border! All along the road trucks. Incredibly much! They may not drive on until the evening so the trucks are parked beside/on the narrow road. They are not easy to pass. Why are there so many here! Eventually the road is totally congested and we can't go forward or backward. It takes a while before we can drive further.
We use our last lunch together in Zhangmu, a seedy border village, where we also (illegally) exchange our Chinese money in Nepalese rupees. Very advantageous exchange rates/nice profit.
Finally we arrive at the Chinese Nepalese border. Everywhere we see people running around loaded as a pack mule. Even small thin women on their sandals carry loads of goods on their back.
With Passang we walk to the border; then he returns, we say goodbye. Always a difficult moment. He was a good and reliable guide; we travelled as a team, it creates a bond.
There is a piece of no man's land where it is a pandemonium !! We have to carry our own luggage and need to cross the Friendship bridge and border by foot Then we are in Nepal! We are met by a guide and a driver. Again the organization expires really lubricated. We fill in our papers and walk to our Nepali van.
In Nepal all at once is very different as in Tibet! The houses are very diverse and brightly colored, the roads are bad, many Hindu symbols, coolies and differently dressed people where the men wear a medium outfit above tight pants and a typical Nepali cap on.
We drive to the first landslide. The landslides have been quite fierce here. There are many fatal casualties and villages and roads have been swept away. Landslides happen often in this area, but the consequences for the people and the infrastructure were this time extreme. The van stops. There is only a dirt path.
We can choose; 2 hours walking through the mud layers or make the trip with a 4 wheel drive. We choose for the 4 wheel drive.
The travel agent makes significant abuse of the situation and turn off both us and the driver. He is asking $ 40 per person for the ride, and that is really out of proportion. We wonder how much the driver get. But we have little choice, with our luggage and this blubber. That will not work; we are a sporting group, but also a group at age .... and we are hit a little spoiled over the years.
Even so, we have to walk for half an hour first and then cross a wobbly suspension bridge. Our luggage is carried. There are many carriers, sometimes with huge loads on their head / shoulders, walking along the entire route. Finally we arrive at the village where the jeep is parked. For half an hour we collide and bounce through potholes, along ravines and rivers.
What a thrill! We have never experienced such a bad road as this one. We constantly bump our heads against the windows. The driver turns the steering wheel with force and let the tires and engine vultures. He is perspiring heavily ... which incidentally really stinks. The co-driver jumps in and out of the cars to give instructions. When we encounter oncoming traffic, we get stuck. After much hassle, shouting, forward and reverse the blockage slowly dissolves and we can pass.
The place where the landslide was a class apart really shows. Lots of land just wiped out, disappeared in the river. If you had your house standing here you really can't tell the tale. There is a lake developed.
Everywhere along the way we see packed people traipsing through the mud and splatter. Heavy!
What an adventure! Eventually we get back to a passable road. There's a passenger van waiting for us. It is still a 1.5 hours drive to Dhilubel. Exhausted and racked we arrive in Dhilubel. We are brought to a different hotel than the hotel with the great view that we had booked . Strange; everything was confirmed about 6 weeks ago . The man that earlier took so much money for the car quickly disappears. Never seen him again.
But okay, our alternative hotel: Hotel Arniko is fine and we have a very appetizing diner. Our rooms are at the fourth floor and there is no elevator, but hey climbing stairs is so easy when your are at only 2300 meters altitude and not at 5000 meter altitude like in Rongbuk!.
The room is very basic. Unfortunately no hot water while we really could use a good hot shower.
The sun is shining when we get up. We have breakfast outside on the terrace. It tastes very good! We have time. We will be picked up around 10.30 a.m. Away from the green, and the rice terraces; on the way to Kathmandu. Not a very interesting ride. It doesn't take long before we reach the suburbs of Katmandu. There is a lot of traffic and a lot of noise. Left and right, from all sides we are overtaken and there is a lot of smog! We have visited Kathmandu already on one of our earlier tours and have good memories of that visit. Lovely to finish the holiday in Kathmandu. We do it in style.
We stay in Hotel Shankar. It is a very chic hotel in a 19 th century palace. From 1894 to 1964, the palace was even used as a residence for the rulers of Nepal. After arriving, we sink into a soft sofa in the lobby of the hotel.
Our room is very nice but not super fancy. In the very posh hotel with suites and apartments, our rooms are clearly in the lesser area; the basement..
After a little freshening we walk to the town. The hotel is near the Thamel. Thamel is a lively district with many shops, bars, restaurants, art galleries, massage parlors (not recommended), etc. We look our eyes out. How hectic!
We have lunch together in a small bar / restaurant. After lunch we separate and continue to explore the city further more . At 6 pm we meet each other again in the same bar. We enjoy wine, beer and momos. Then we dine at the Yak restaurant. Good food. After dinner we hire rickshaws to bring us back to the hotel. It was a nice stroll urban day.
We sleep very well on a very comfortable bed!
It's Half past eight as we enter the breakfast room. The breakfast is really special here! Toast, butter, jam, fresh orange juice, croissants, fruit, desserts, granola, waffles and eggs that are prepared any way you want. Very exuberant and it all tastes great!
After breakfast we take a taxi to Pashupatinath. Pashupatinath, lying on the banks of the holy Bagmati river, is the most important Hindu temple in Nepal. The Pashupatinath temple is inaccessible for non-Hindus. We walk along the market stalls near the temple. They sell all kinds of religious trinkets.
On the gaths (stairs to descend to the river) shelves are made where cremations take place on a daily basis. The cremation ground is very impressive.
It's busy today on the banks of the river. Many Hindu ceremonies in which a Brahmin (Hindu priest) made all sorts of incomprehensible acts and mumbles prayers for a family that hired him. The dead and the living are close together in Pashupatinath.
There are several cremations in progress. Cremations are not the same here as in the West. Everything is done quite openly. From across the river, you can watch all events. It is impressive, but because of the serene atmosphere it is not grim.
On one side of the bridge, at the foot of the temple, the body of the dead is placed with the feet in the holy river on a large stone. The body is cleansed with the water of the river, floral wreaths are placed on the body and the face is colored with orange / red powder. Subsequently, the body is placed on a bamboo stretcher and worn to the other side of the bridge. On a stone tablet, the body is placed on a carefully constructed woodpile.
Again several rituals are followed led by a white-robed priest.
The children of the deceased walk several times around the bier. The feet of the deceased are kissed and grains are sprinkled on the body. Finally, ignited by the eldest son te fire is lit in the mouth of the deceased. Once the pile has caught fire, straw is laid over the body. This straw is wetted in advance in the Bagmati River so it causes a lot of white smoke.
Finally, there are wood stumps placed on the bier. There are several cremations going on simultaneously; a piece or 5. It is impressive.
Incense, flowers, oil lamps on leaves folded as small baskets are floating in the river.
A boy swims past in an attempt to find something of value in the water. If someone is cremated, there will be stuff thrown in the water, even coins. A little further just two feet stick above the water. Weird! Very intense!
Pashupatinath attracts many important Hindu "holy men" (Sadhus). They live across the river in a kind of small old stone temples. These men with their colorfully painted faces and their long dreadlocks have evolved over the years.
They decorate themselves more and more exuberant; Some look more comical than holy. What they all have in common is that they know that they are photogenic. Sadhus are officially considered to be dependent on donations, but posing for tourists rather seems to be big business.
We take plenty of time for our visit Pashupatinath. Atop of a hill overlooking the temple, the river and the ghats is a bench. We sit down and let everything affect us. What a special place this is .
Finally, we leave Pashupatinath and take a taxi to Durban Square. We are already pretty tired and sweaty; it's hot here !!!
We drink a nice cold drink and have lunch in a restaurant at the edge of the square with a roof terrace. It is the difficult to climb all floors but it is worth it. Great food, natural ventilation (windy) and a beautiful view over the city.
Durbar is the Nepalese word for palace. Durbar Square is a main attraction and the beating heart in Kathmandu.
The square is really a meeting place. It's swarming of people, taxis, sacred cows, bicycle rickshaws and street children. There are more than 50 temples and other religious monuments. The oldest temple dates back to the twelfth century and the main building is the Royal Palace.The square is not well maintained, but it is well worth visiting. In one corner of the square reside a few sadhus. There's even a holy woman.
We don't visit Kumari, the living goddess. Seems just a little too much like a puppet-show, but maybe we are prejudiced. Instead, we wander around for a while in the streets of the old neighborhoods surrounding the Durbar Square.
Shop in, shop out. Mopeds and rickshaws fly around us. Tiring, but again very nice. We meet our companions around 5.30 p.m.
We enjoyed a delicious breakfast again this morning. After breakfast we leave for the city. Kathmandu is truly a shopper's paradise. So many small galleries, studios of felted scarves, shoes and toys, antique shops, jewelry shops, clothing stores, incense stalls .... you name it; it's there. Easy to find a nice souvenir here. At noon we have lunch together.
After lunch we visit Boudhanath. Boudhanath is one of the largest ancient stupas in South Asia, located in the district Bouddah. The stupa is a Buddhist temple, built on an ancient trade route to Tibet. The imposing stupa dominates the skyline.
After the annexation of Tibet by many Buddhist monks fled to Nepal and Kathmandu in particular. It is not for nothing that they call this neighborhood of Kathmandu 'little Tibet'.
In the environment of the stupa are many gompas and monasteries. Many Tibetans come to Bouddhanath to celebrate loscar (New Year).
The stupa of Boudhanath is on the UNESCO World Heritage list Since 1979.
We see many pilgrims walk the korlam around the stupa. Many tourists too. Around the stupa are many small shops with souvenirs and Buddhist antiques. There are also some restaurants with rooftop terrace.
We have a drink on one of the rooftops and enjoy the magnificent views of the Stupa.
At the end of the afternoon it's busier with pilgrims. It is sunny and warm but gradually it darkens. Suddenly It starts raining cats and dogs. A veritable cloudburst! Time to go back to the hotel.
In the hotel we have dinner together. Tomorrow we fly back to Amsterdam so we check in online for the flight.
Time for a quiet breakfast and a last round in the town. Then the party is over. We leave for the airport. Our journey back begins.
Our Tibet trip was truly an amazing experience. What a amazingly beautiful country is Tibet and how deeply is the Buddhist culture rooted in this proud country and the people.
We are confident that not a billion Chinese people will succeed to break the pride and culture of the Tibetans. Though the Chinese really try to do just that. We are sorry to say, but Tibet is really an occupied country and actually a police state with the many police stations in the cities and everywhere else.
That's pretty oppressive. For us as a visitor, but of course especially for Tibetans. The braver it is that many Tibetans find the courage to speak out and be critical about their country and their occupiers. Those Tibetans deserve our support. We are pleased that we have met them.
We have a swift return from a fabulous holiday!
Ingrid Vogelesang en
Jan-Arend van Boeijen